The Books that Built the Blogger with Naomi Frisby

I’m delighted to welcome Naomi Frisby to kick off The Books That Built the Blogger with her list of five books that have influenced her reading and her blogging.

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Naomi blogs at The Writes of Woman and I love her insightful reviews of books by women writers, her work with championing more diverse reading and her fortnightly feature In The Media, which has a round up of fascinating links to women and women’s literature happening in the media. Here are her choices:

The Busconductor Hines – James Kelman

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The Busconductor Hines changed my life. I was 17, studying for my A Levels in a town described by the media as a ‘Northern wasteland’. I read a lot and listened to music and these two things had brought me, via The NME and Select, to the then recently published Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I taped a Channel 4 documentary on three Scottish writers – Irvine Welsh, Janice Galloway and James Kelman – watching each episode at home in ‘free periods’ when everyone else was out. It was Kelman who interested me the most. The next time I was in the town centre, I took myself to Barnsley Library and searched for his name. They had three books by him, two short story collections and a novel. I took the novel.

The Busconductor Hines taught me that you can write about ordinary people and you can do so in their accent. It was the first time I’d seen someone like me represented on the page. It began a lifelong love affair not only with working class literature but also with the work of Scottish and Irish writers and the places they hail from too.

The Electric Michelangelo – Sarah Hall

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When I was at university, I began reading the books shortlisted for The Booker Prize each year. It was a conscious decision to read more contemporary literary fiction and, as I had no other guide as to what or who to read, reading the list seemed as good as any. The Electric Michelangelo was shortlisted in 2004 by which time I was back in the ‘Northern wasteland’ teaching English to secondary school students. This book provided an unusual link between my past, present and future. Past: we used to go to on a family day out to Morecambe in the summer holidays, which is where the first part of the book is set. Present: I was (and still am) obsessed with New York City and its outer boroughs. The second part of the book is set in Coney Island. Future: It would spark an obsession with sideshows and lead to me undertaking a Ph.D. in Creative Writing, the thesis element of which looks at female bodies in circus literature.

Citizen: An American Lyric – Claudia Rankine

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At the end of 2014, I saw a tweet from Nikesh Shukla calling on people doing their end of year reading round-ups to look at the number of books by writers of colour they’d read that year. Mine was an appalling 10%. I decided to do something about it, consciously choosing books by women of colour to read and review on my blog. Citizen: An American Lyric was the first. What I didn’t know then was that the year would end with me co-running #diversedecember with Dan Lipscombe, a reaction to an all-white World Book Night list, and that the campaign would make the front cover of The Guardian Review. Reading Citizen was the beginning of a permanent change in my reading habits and it’s taken me to so many excellent books I might otherwise never have read.

The House in Smyrna – Tatiana Salem Levy

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Like The Busconductor Hines, The House in Smyrna made me realise what’s possible in literature. It wasn’t the first piece of experimental fiction I read but it was the first that I think I really understood; I could see how its seemingly disparate parts fit together to create a complete picture. It’s also the story of a woman and I think I spent so long reading books by and about men that I hadn’t considered the possibilities when it comes to telling women’s stories. Not long after reading this, I sought out more experimental fiction by and about women and I started writing my own.

Homesick for Another World – Ottessa Moshfegh

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Homesick for Another World has only recently been published but it’s on my list because it made me realise just how powerful short story collections can be. Not only does every story in this collection stand-alone but the book, as a whole, creates a picture of current society and finds it hypocritical. It made me take the neglected short story collections (of which there were quite a number) off my shelves and begin to work my way through them. I’ve discovered some real gems so far and am hoping for more as I brush the rest of the dust away.

Many thanks to Naomi for that fantastic list. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read any of these! I did read How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman and marvelled at his use of language and I read Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh last year and loved it and always welcome a new short story collection!

Have you read any of Naomi’s choices?

Remember, if you’d like to take part in The Books That Built the Blogger, just drop me an email at cmac2708@yahoo.co.uk. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Books That Built The Blogger The 746

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I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

32 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I enjoyed this, but no, I haven’t read any of these selections, either. What a fascinating and diverse bunch.

    I loved the description of the book that changed Naomi’s life, her horror at her minimal reading books by women of colour, her inspiration to write her own experimental literature, and best of all her discovering (or rediscovering) short story collections – woo hoo. Good stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great list of which I’ve read precisely none! I can see this feature is going to be fatal to TBRs everywhere. Good to hear Naomi talk about short story collections – I’ve avoided them most of my life until the last couple of years, but like her have been won round by discovering some really wonderful ones, especially linked ones that take a kind of holistic approach to a subject, as she mentions her chosen one does. 🙂

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  3. Books, short stories and essays can impact all of us; I thought this was an excellent post and I also loved Naomi’s epiphany about all – white writers. In graduate school, I took a course called Ethnic Minority Literature ( this does not include works by African American writers—they are not considered Minority writers in the States). We studied Asian American female writers and I adored Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan! I also discovered Native American writers, and I was more than impressed. There were quite a few ethnicities, as well, Jewish, Norwegian, and Italian American writers, as well. If anyone is curious and has the time and inclination, please read James Baldwin, Jamaica Kincaid, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Chinua Achebe, Alice Walker and Jhumpa Lahiri ( whom Cathy recently reviewed).

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  4. I have to admit I haven’t read any of them, but they all sound fascinating. I also live in a Northern Wasteland, and I struggle between trying to appreciate my origins and a desire to escape. Thanks for the list, Naomi.

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  5. No I haven’t read any of the books although I have three of Kelman’s books on a shelf, including The Busconductor Hines, I intend to get around to that one soon, especially after reading this, thanks. It is a very interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is a great post and perhaps particularly as Naomi chose books that are completely new to me, as I suspected she might. The stories and how they influenced all areas of her life are brilliant – from past memories to a PHD, from teaching to writing her own experimental fiction – a true inspiration!

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  7. I haven’t read any of these, though I loved Trainspotting and would count it as a very influential book in my reading – I have no ties to Scotland, but it was one of the first books I read that was written in an accent like that, like, oh, you can do that? 🙂 I read Eileen and liked it, and am hearing good things about her collection… I like how she finds and forces you to look at hypocrisy.

    This was a great contribution in that I can really trace how these books affect how you blog. Love the series!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. A fascinating collection! I’ve only read The Electric Michaelangelo.

    I’ve heard great things about Citizen. I’m reading Eileen at the moment so I’ll seek out her short stories soon!

    And I’m wondering why I’ve never read any more Kelman when I really liked How Late It Was, How Late – The Bus Conductor Hines clearly needs to be added to my TBR 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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